The problem with using Black Lives Matter hashtags on dating apps | #tinder | #pof


Are white people using Black Lives Matter hashtags on dating apps just to appear ‘woke’?(Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Anyone who has ever used a dating app will know that you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

6?1 usually means 5?10. Age listed as 33 often means they’re actually closer to 40.

But when it comes to political beliefs and issues about racial equality, these little white lies take on a more pertinent significance. And they can be much more damaging.

Since the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, the prevalence of BLM hashtags, anti-racism statements and photos from protests, have increased enormously on dating apps and websites. On Tinder, ‘BLM’ mentions grew 55x, exceeding the term ‘hook-up’ by the end of 2020. 

Initially, Tinder users reported that they were being removed from the app and having their profiles suspended for showing support for BLM, but the company quickly backtracked on this and began allowing people to fundraise and share their allegiance on their profile.

Other apps have been quick to support this shift towards activism, encouraging users to proudly display their beliefs and start political conversations with prospective daters.

‘We encourage all of our users to speak openly and honestly about social causes close to their heart,’ Marine Ravinet, head of trends at Happn tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Not only is this a simple way to understand where your crush stands on certain topics, but it also helps singles understand how they themselves feel about social causes they may have not experienced first-hand.

‘Demonstrating support of movements like BLM, for example, on users’ profiles and in discussions with their crush, is absolutely embraced by everyone here at happn – we must continue to learn about matters that we experience, or have seen from the side-lines.’

For Black people, and other daters from ethnic minority communities, navigating these spaces – and witnessing white people using this language on these apps – can be tricky.

On the face of it, it seems like a positive.

If you’re non-white, why wouldn’t you want to date someone who is loudly anti-racist? Someone who publicly shares just how much they care about racial equality?

But it’s not always clear who is being sincere and who is using these hashtags to point-score, perform allyship for their own reasons, or even to attract partners who fit their racial fetish.

Like catfishing – where someone pretends to be another person in order to attract more attention on dating apps – wokefishing is a similar kind of deception.

Coined by Serena Smith for Vice, wokefishing is where someone pretends to hold progressive – or ‘woke’ views to lure another person into dating them.

Abi, a Black woman from London, says she has been impacted by watching white people wake up to racism over the past year, and seeing it spill over into the world of dating. She says the sudden focus on anti-racism from white people on these apps puts her on high-alert.

‘Before the 2020 uproar, it was very rare to see any profile with politically charged comments on race, especially from a non-Black person,’ Abi tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Before last summer I had only seen profiles from Black or mixed-race people that included comments on race in their profiles.’

Have you ever experienced ‘wokefishing’? (Picture: Getty Images)

For Abi, seeing #BLM or similar in someone’s bio has to be judged in context of the entire profile. She says she always takes a closer look at a person’s pictures to try to get a clear idea of their intentions.

‘I can kind of tell when it is performative, with a throwaway hashtag,’ she explains. ‘If you have a mini beanie on and you’ve decided to mention a Black rapper, or link your music section to loads of Black musicians, or if you’re an East London cool cat, I can’t help but think, “here we go, another trend-follower”.

‘If someone has taken the time to make a genuine comment on BLM and not just the hashtag (and the pictures are not cringe), then I would maybe approach the person with a little more interest.’

Beyond that, a quick look at someone’s socials gives Abi a better idea of who they really are outside of the dating app.

‘I have seen so many picture collages of people at marches and it makes me think that they are just trying to be cool, and that they have clearly taken no steps in educating themselves and wouldn’t know where to begin in a conversation about race issues.

‘If I see a black square in any pictures on the profiles, I wouldn’t dare entertain that person.’

For Abi, posting a black square represents doing the bare minimum – an empty and meaningless gesture. So, seeing that on someone’s profile is an immediate red flag.

Abi says it comes down to authenticity. So much of the online ‘activism’ she has witnessed since last summer has been, in her opinion, more about clout and likes than it has been about actually changing the conversation around racism. And witnessing this behaviour from prospective daters is both jarring and draining.

The impact of navigating BLM discussions on dating apps

‘Having a partner who is committed to anti-racism is important. Black people want to know their potential partner is aware of the multifaceted impacts of racism, and that they are willing to talk about it, as communication and honesty are key relationship factors,’ explains psychologist Dr Roberta Babb.

‘However, it is not the only aspect of a person’s identity and so it important to have balance in this area. 

‘Focusing too much on this element can feel like the Black person is being reduced to a single part of their identity which is now “fashionable” to talk about.’

Dr Babb says it is the speed of this shift in tone that is so unsettling to many Black people.

Before it became trendy to talk about causes like Black Lives Matter, many people of colour experienced having to suppress the racialised elements of their identity, or have been silenced when trying to voice these issues while dating. So, for the conversation to suddenly be accepted, even encouraged, now feels hollow.

‘Black people can also feel used, as if their role is to provide knowledge about their personal experiences and thoughts to further the non-Black person’s learning, rather than in the service of developing a healthy, supportive and reciprocal relationship,’ adds Dr Babb.

‘If the behaviour is performative and insincere, it can have a detrimental impact on Black people’s mental and physical health.

‘Racism is an act of aggression and oppression. It can be exhausting and traumatising to only have conversations which focus on racism and its impact. If it is performative, harmful behaviours can be re-enacted in the dating experience which can leave Black people feeling vulnerable, exposed, anxious, sad, confused, and angry.’

It can also lead people to question who they are and why their dating experience is so challenging. It can make dating feel hopeless and impact self-worth. This is how Abi felt, and in part why she has now deleted all of her dating apps.

‘I matched with a white guy who referenced BLM on his profile,’ Abi recalls. ‘The only thing he said on the topic was to ask me whether I made it to the marches, and told me that he went. He then proceeded to ask me what my favourite chicken shop was in the area I lived – maybe a misjudged attempt at being quirky.

‘My response generally when the conversation is brought up, is to ask whether they are having these conversations with their white friends and family. These issues are not new to me, and it shows how far the person really does care.’

Abi does think that seeing more people – specifically more white people – talking about anti-racism and Black Lives Matter is a good thing overall. She thinks it’s great that more white people are taking on the responsibility of educating themselves and speaking up.

But when it comes to dating, she says very little has changed. And navigating these responses adds another layer of complexity to a world that was already incredibly challenging for people of colour.

Can talking about racism on dating apps be a good thing?

‘As a Black woman who dates people of all races, you are already dealing with issues like microaggressions and fetishisation,’ says Abi. ‘With the BLM movement, I couldn’t help but question in some situations whether the “like” from this white person was a sad attempt at being anti-racist or woke.

‘If I find myself on dating apps again, I can’t see myself giving anyone plus points for a BLM hashtag in their profile.

‘Really, what the movement has done is given white people a little bit more confidence in touching on the topic. And, in the dating sense, if a person feels open enough to mention race issues and has gone away and researched on their own and wants to genuinely have a discussion, I would absolutely welcome it.’  

Historically, dating apps have been fertile ground for racism and discrimination – which often flies under the radar disguised as ‘preference’.

OK Cupid found that Black women consistently receive the fewest matches on dating apps, closely followed by Black men. Women of colour frequently report experiences of fetishisation, being dehumanised and hypersexualised on apps and dating sites. Many apps are only just removing filters that allow you to exclude Black people from your potential dating pool.

A 2016 study found that 96% of Grindr users had viewed at least one profile that included some sort of racial discrimination, and more than half reported that they had been victims of racism.

Encouraging users to add an anti-racist hashtag, or post a black square, is not enough to address the pervasive and insidious racism that still exists in these digital spaces.

Real progress will require a much bigger cultural shift, acknowledgement of the existing problem and widespread, systemic changes.



The State of Racism

This series is an in-depth look at racism in the UK in 2020 and beyond.

We aim to look at how, where and why individual and structural racism impacts people of colour from all walks of life.

It’s vital that we improve the language we have to talk about racism and continue the difficult conversations about inequality – even if they make you uncomfortable.

We want to hear from you – if you have a personal story or experience of racism that you would like to share get in touch: metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk

Do you have a story to share? We want to hear from you.

Get in touch: metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.


MORE : ‘Racism is stupid’: How author Nikesh Shukla is teaching his children about race


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